Durbin, Elizabeth (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review
Volume 25, Number 4 (September 1979)
Turner, Stephen C.
A place too far, pp. 11-13
A place too far I L~~~~~111w by Stephen C. Turner illustrated by Tom Strobel A ndy Martin pointed his rifle toward the darkened sky and pulled the trigger. The barrel flashed and the butt slammed back against his shoulder. He lowered the rifle and worked the lever. Again he fired aimlessly at the sky. And again. Three evenly spaced shots. Then, laying the barrel across his left arm, he leaned back against the birch tree behind him and drew a deep breath. The cold air stung his throat and lungs. He was lost. And scared. Before sunrise, his uncle had led him to this place. And here he had stood all through the gray November day, leaning against the ragged birch and staring down the firirng lane toward the buck scrapings his uncle had found. "Stand up there, Andy," Uncle Jack had said, point- ing toward the birch. "That bastard will be back here sooner or later. And from up there you'll have a perfect shot." And so Andy had hiked up the slow rise through the deep, wet snow. Through the gray morning and less gray afternoon, Andy had stood and watched and waited. And now it was dark and he did not know his way back to camp. He should have known the way, he told himself. Ten miles to the south was the nearest road, the county trunk he and his father and uncle had driven in on yesterday from Escanaba. But which way was south? If he knew that, he would know the way to the camp. It was northeast of him, he knew. But he did not know which way was south and the cloudy skies hid the stars that might have given him his bearings. He had seen no deer during that long day, but he had heard rifle shots, which must have come from his uncle's or his father's 30-06. They were hunting a few miles away. But no other hunters were within 20 miles, his uncle had said. They were surrounded by a wilderness broken only by the remains of abandoned logging camps and overgrown logging roads. Perhaps his Uncle Jack or his father had killed a deer. Both men were excellent shots and killed every season. Perhaps even now they were eating venison steaks in the warmth of the cement block cabin the men had built over 20 years ago. It was against the law, of course, to eat venison in hunting camp, but the DNR men had never come to this place. It was too far from everything and there were too few hunters to worry about. Or perhaps the men were drinking whiskey and listening to the portable radio. Maybe they hadn't heard the shots at all. Maybe he should fire again. Even if they didn't hear, firing the rifle at least made Andy feel better. Uncle Jack had shown Andy the tracks of the bear that had found the camp's garbage burial. It was a brown bear, Uncle Jack had said. A small one but powerful. Andy raised the rifle and fired again. Shots split the quiet. Once. Twice. Something rustled in the cedar brush behind him. Andy turned, pointing the rifle toward the noise and releasing the safety. He blinked and tears edged cold on the corners of his eyes. "Uncle Jack?" Andy called. "Dad?" "Andy! What the hell are you shootin' at?" "Is that you, Uncle Jack?" "No, you damned fool, it's a talking bear." Andy lowered the rifle, silently flicking on the safe- ty, glad that in the dark the men could not see where his rifle was pointing. "Man's got to know where he is at all times in the woods," Uncle Jack said. "I thought I taught you better than that," his father said. "What happened?" "Everything looked different after dark," Andy said. "And you panicked and started shootin' lead all over the woods, didn't you?" his father said. "Yes, sir," Andy said. He could not see his father's face, but Andy knew he was angry. "Come on," Father said. "We'll talk about it later." The men said nothing as Andy followed them back to the warmth of the cabin. They knew the way and walked directly, silently and heavily through the dark and the deep snow. In 15 minutes they were inside, kicking off their heavy Sorel boots and changing from their red Sioux woolens into overalls and flannel shirts. It was time to eat, and Andy, because he had not killed a deer yet, was the cook. It was a camp tradition. In a heavy iron skillet on top the rusty woodburning stove, Andy fried venison steaks in lard. He could fit only two steaks in the skillet and so he was at the stove for a long time, not eating himself until after the five men had had enough of the steak and bread and beans. After dinner, the men cleared the table and threw a gray wool blanket over it so they could play poker. September 1979/Wisconsin Academy Review/li
Copyright 1979 by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters.| For information on re-use, see http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/Copyright